Segregated Portfolio Companies (SPCs) are now well recognised and widely used corporate vehicles, and we are seeing increasing demand for them in the funds context in both the BVI and Cayman Islands. An SPC benefits from statutory segregation of its assets and liabilities in one segregated portfolio from those of any other segregated portfolio, and from the general assets and liabilities of the company, but is a single, legal entity. The SPC has only one set of constitutional documents, one board of directors and, importantly, one set of annual licence fees (although additional fees are charged per segregated portfolio on establishment (and, in Cayman, annually) these supplementary fees are much lower than the fees for establishing and maintaining multiple entities).
The ability to segregate the assets and liabilities of one segregated portfolio from another makes SPCs popular for umbrella or multi-class investment funds which can operate different investment strategies and, in particular, different levels of leverage, without risking cross contamination across the segregated portfolios.
In the past, SPCs have been popular with emerging managers who may have used an SPC platform as a cost-effective way to enter the market and establish an investment fund. They would effectively “rent” a segregated portfolio of the SPC platform rather than set up a standalone legal entity. This is still the case for Cayman SPCs although it has become less attractive in the BVI since the introduction there of specific products - the incubator fund and approved fund - tailored to the emerging manager each of which offers a quick and cost-effective set-up and minimum ongoing regulatory requirements.
Regulation of SPCs
In the BVI, a company is only eligible to be an SPC if it is, or will be on incorporation, a private, professional or public fund under the Securities and Investment Business Act, 2010. In Cayman, any exempted company can be incorporated as or convert into an SPC (if it follows the conversion procedure set out in the Companies Law).
The prior approval of the BVI Financial Services Commission (FSC) is required before any BVI company may be registered or incorporated as an SPC and this is only granted where the FSC is satisfied that the applicant has, or has available to it, the knowledge and expertise necessary for the proper management of segregated portfolios. There is no equivalent approval needed for Cayman SPCs.
In both the BVI and Cayman, each segregated portfolio either has its own offering memorandum or there is a base offering memorandum for the fund and each segregated portfolio has its own portfolio supplement.
A BVI SPC is required to have an administrator, manager and custodian. As discussed in our Introduction to Cayman Fund Products blog post, a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund will need to have an administrator and manager but is not required to have a custodian but a Cayman SPC which is unregulated is not required under Cayman legislation to appoint functionaries. The same functionaries may be appointed to all of the segregated portfolios of a BVI SPC or a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund. Alternatively, each segregated portfolio may appoint its own functionaries. The documents appointing the functionaries must state clearly the segregated portfolios for which the appointment is being made.
Both a BVI SPC and a Cayman SPC which is a regulated fund are required to have an auditor, and audited financial statements must be filed with the FSC or the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (as applicable) within six months of the end of its financial year.
The future of SPCs
The use of SPCs, especially in the funds and insurance industries, has grown in recent years and the concept is now well recognised in the international financial services industry. As a consequence, we are getting more frequent enquiries about establishing SPCs and clients are seeing that the features of SPCs are useful, not only for regulated funds but also for a broad range of other uses such as closed-end, unregulated funds or employee benefit schemes. The Cayman legislation is currently more flexible than the BVI legislation and allows unregulated funds to be established as SPCs. Consequently, Cayman is currently winning this work. The BVI Business Companies Act, 2004 provides scope for greater flexibility as to the type of vehicles that are able to adopt the SPC structure, and the FSC is looking into widening the circumstances in which SPCs can be used. When it does this (and we are hopeful that this is imminent), the BVI, with its much lower establishment and annual fees, will become extremely competitive in this market.
If you are interested in setting up an SPC in the BVI or the Cayman Islands, please get in touch.
The author of this post is no longer with Harneys. For more information on this topic, please reach out to the author listed above.